Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron: I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On
Being A Woman

Nora EphronReally, it’s a bit daunting taking on a Nora Ephron book, but we’re brave girls. Ephron wrote novels, essays, screenplays—you name it. Did you see When Harry Met Sally? Heartburn? Silkwood? Ephron. Ephron. All Ephron. Did you know that she interned at the JFK White House? Did you know she was into cooking? Did you know she was once Rosie O’Donnell’s neighbor? Well, Nora was a pro in storytelling, and Snotty Literati will try to do her justice, even if we didn’t love the book. Though maybe we did.

Lara: Yes, maybe you, wonderful reader, did love it. I didn’t, and it breaks my heart a little bit. How can I not love the memoir of the woman who brought us Silkwood, Heartburn and When Harry Met Sally? Well, I have a few thoughts.

I actually think I might need to be a little older and a whole lot richer to love this book. Wait, that’s coming out wrong.

Ephron was NYC elite. She traveled to Paris with friends who buy $3,500 purses, just because. She lunched with columnist Liz Smith and hosted dinners for award-winning cookbook author Lee Bailey. Oh, and the love of her life (and third husband) Nick Pileggi wrote the screenplays for movies like Goodfellas and Casino.

Her life was a marvel… yet in writing about it, you feel like it’s a book to be read by her other NYC friends, not so much by the likes of you and me. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not elitist, I just struggled to connect. That said, there were some nuggets, some real gems, that I actually wrote down in my little notebook for book stuff.

Jennifer: Fellow Snotties, we just had a morbidly humorous moment that I want to share with you, despite how it makes me look. Lara and I, um, acknowledged that we pretty much felt the same way about this book. Though there really are nuggets—and we’ll try to pull some out for you—I didn’t love it either. I felt fairly removed from this world she occupied. But then Lara spoke of Nora in the past tense, and I’m, like, “She’s dead?” And Lara’s, like, “Yeah.” And I’m, like, “She is?” And she’s, like, “You didn’t know?” And I’m, like, “No!”

So now I’m wondering if I should give her a rave review?

Lara: Um, no. That’s offering pity and she deserves more than that.

Jennifer: Well, wow. Also, her second marriage was to Carl Bernstein, and she knew about Deep Throat! Anyway.

The book was okay. I find myself enjoying a good comic memoir from time-to-time. I read, maybe, one to two a year. So, I’m generalizing. I loved Mindy Kaling’s first book—but she was a tad too young for me. I found Jenny Lawson’s the most outrageous—but also the most accessible: we may occupy similar worlds. I adored Tina Fey’s memoir the best, and I wish people confused me with her. Plus, I’d like for her family to join my family for Thanksgiving. Sandra Tsing Loh is great, and I once stood in line behind her to get coffee at a writer’s conference. Nora Ephron made me miss New York—really, truly—but we lived in different New Yorks, and that difference was mildly alienating. Additionally, I’m old—but not quite there yet.

Lara: I still can’t get over that you didn’t know she had died. Let’s get to the good stuff. The nuggets.

So, Nora gets hair. She totally gets that women are spending too much damn time on their hair.

“Tell the truth. Aren’t you sick of your hair? Aren’t you tired of washing and drying it? … It takes some of my friends an hour a day, seven days a week, just to wash and blow dry their hair. How they manage to have any sort of life at all is a mystery. I mean we are talking 365 hours a year! Nine work weeks!”


I feel the exact same way. And while I don’t head over to a NY salon twice a week for a blow out—that’s part her NY elite life—I do only wash my hair three to four times a week. And, I often get compliments on it. All you daily washers can do the same. I promise. It just takes some hair-training.

Jennifer: Crap, Lara. I found that part of the alienating stuff. But okay . . .

I did find some special truths on writing here, and I always love those. I like, especially, what she says about humor:

“I now believe that what my mother meant when she said ‘Everything is copy’ is this: When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you; but when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it’s your laugh.”

Good humor advice.

Lara: One of my favorite essays in the collection was “The Story of My Life” where she makes a bittersweet observation on divorce which I identified with all too well.

“But in a divorce, you never tell your children that you were once madly in love with their father because it would be too confusing.”

Sigh. So true. Sigh again.

Jennifer: I love some of the snippets in “What I Wish I’d Known.” I love this one:

“There’s no point in making piecrust from scratch.”

I know!

Lara: That is a true statement! Another gem from that essay:

“When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.”

My guy is twelve, so this reality is any day now. Thank God I have my Boxer.

Jennifer: And there was more on writing. I liked this moment she shares, in which her marriage is ending and her husband is having an affair with a married woman—and she meets the husband of that woman. Nora and the man embrace:

“Oh, Peter,” I say to him, “Isn’t it awful?”
“It’s awful,” he says. “What’s happening to this country?”
I’m crying hysterically, but I’m thinking, someday this will be a funny story.

I so love this. I think it reflects a writerly-stance that, maybe, bugs non-writers? Does it? It’s a kind of, hmm, “shadow-living.” One’s living both in the moment, and outside of it—thinking about writing about it later. I do this a lot. But I think it might have a slight stench to non-writers, as if writers are not fully living in the moment.

Lara: I didn’t love that piece as much as you did, but that’s okay.

My absolute favorite was from the essay “On Rapture” where she writes about reading.

“…the state of rapture I experience when I read a wonderful book is one of the main reasons I read, but it doesn’t happen every time or even every other time, and when it does happen, I’m truly beside myself…”

Amen, Nora.

Jennifer: We both loved the Oz books, by the way.

Well, I’d be remiss if I failed to pay tribute to her love of New York, and how successful she was in dredging up old feelings of nostalgia in me for the place. Despite the fact that she lived in glamorous five-bedroom apartment and I lived in basement, reminiscent of “Laverne & Shirley”—albeit smaller—Ephron had some great New York stuff, like this one:

“Rent stabilization was an indelible part of New York life, like Gray’s Papaya.”

But I felt the near-toxicity of this nostalgia too—like I’d move back and be sad. Consider this true passage:

“Things change in New York; things change all the time. You don’t mind this when you live here; when you live here, it’s part of the caffeinated romance of this city that never sleeps. But when you move away, you experience change as a betrayal. You walk up Third Avenue planning to buy a brownie at a bakery you’ve always been loyal to, and the bakery’s gone. Your dry cleaner moves to Florida; your dentist retires; the lady who made the pies on West Fourth Street vanishes; the maître d’ at P.J. Clarke’s quits, and you realize you’re going to have to start from scratch tipping your way into the heart of the cold, chic new woman now at the door. You’ve turned your back for only a moment, and suddenly everything’s different. You were an insider, a native, a subway traveler, a purveyor of inside tips into the good stuff, and now you’re just another frequent flyer, stuck in a taxi on the Grand Central Parkway as you wing in and out of La Guardia.”

I have to admit that passage almost hurts.

But ultimately this book—observant, fun, funny—didn’t leave me breathless in a whirlwind of good times.

Lara: I think that sums it up. It is observant and has moments of humor and sentimentality, but as a whole it leaves me not really feeling anything good or bad. I liked it, but didn’t love it; and I wish I had.

Next Up!

We will come back in April with our thoughts on the much-loved literary behemoth of 2015, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Until then, happy reading, Snotties!


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